Arthur Mondella, owner of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, was allegedly selling a lot more than cherries, and he killed himself when his secret drug business was uncovered, police say. According to the New York Daily News, investigators looking into reports of pollution from the Brooklyn cherry plant smelled marijuana; after they spotted a suspicious-looking partition, the 57-year-old locked himself in a bathroom and yelled, "Take care of my kids!" to his sister before shooting himself. Police sources tell the Daily News that after Mondella's suicide, they found a "huge marijuana-growing operation" concealed under the plant, as well as high-end vehicles (including a Rolls-Royce), around 80 pounds of weed, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The 67-year-old family business, which Mondella took over in 1983, supplied big clients, including Red Lobster and TGI Fridays, and had not seemed to be struggling, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mondella had two daughters from his first marriage and a 5-year-old girl with his second wife, from whom he was separated, reports the Daily News. "Poor guy, in this day and age, you can do no jail time for marijuana," a law enforcement source tells the New York Post. "I don't know why he would do that, unless there’s something worse down there." The Post's sources also claim that police were tipped off about the pot business in 2013 and used the environmental complaints as a way to get inside the factory. (Read more New York City stories.)